Android gaming has been one of the slow-burning apps trends of 2013. There have always been good games available for Google-powered smartphones and tablets, but it’s the increase in the quantity of quality titles that’s been significant this year.
Yes, Apple’s iOS still gets a fair few games first and/or exclusively, but Android is noticeably higher in many developers and publishers’ priorities, leaving the virtual shelves of Google Play and Amazon Appstore well stocked.
Here’s a reminder of some of the best Android games released in 2013 so far, which will hopefully provide a few download ideas for veteran Android gamers and newcomers to the platform alike, whatever your gaming tastes, drawn from The Guardian’s weekly best Android apps roundups.
All prices are correct at the time of writing, and bear in mind that (Free) almost invariably means (Freemium), so expect in-app purchases.
There’s something rather marvellous about Rymdkapsel: an addictive, accessible game that offers a twist on the real-time strategy genre. The emphasis is on building a space-base through Tetris-like block-placement, while fending off waves of enemies. It’s simple in all the best ways.
Real Racing 3 (Free)
EA’s racing threequel was controversial due to being the first freemium game in the much-loved series – free to play, but you pay to speed up repairs and unlock new cars faster. The game sees you racing more than 45 cars over 900 events, upgrading as you go. The graphics are spiffing, the handling works beautifully, and updates have provided extra content since its release.
Bejeweled Blitz (Free)
Another freemium game from EA, but this time one offering match-three puzzling based on the famous Bejeweled brand. This re-engineers the game as a series of 60-second rounds where you have to score as many points as possible, using power-ups to bump up your performance, and comparing your efforts to friends.
Tiny Thief (£1.99)
Tiny Thief was the latest game from Rovio Stars, a new publishing business that’s part of Angry Birds-maker Rovio. No birds or pigs here, though: it’s inspired by classic point’n'click adventure games, with the teeny-burglar hero exploring six quests to uncover delightful puzzles and surprises.
The Room (£1.49)
Atmospheric puzzler The Room has been taxing brains on iOS and Android alike, getting you to explore a carefully-crafted 3D room solving puzzles. Everything’s designed around touchscreen controls, and the puzzles themselves are genuinely brain-frazzling, providing a decent challenge.
Nimble Quest (Free)
Having made its name with Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes, Nimblebit’s latest freemium game was more of an action title, blending Snake gameplay with RPG-style characters and upgrades. You swipe your party of heroes to guide them through levels of increasing difficulty. It’s very one-more-go-even-though-it’s-2am addictive.
Temple Run 2 (Free)
Endless runner Temple Run has been a massive hit on smartphones of all stripes, and its sequel added new features without spoiling the basic premise: swiping to jump, slide and turn your way through scenery to escape an angry, giant monkey. A recent update added sprinter Usain Bolt as a playable character, too.
Crazy Taxi (£4.02)
Sega’s Crazy Taxi has thrilled as an arcade game, a console game and now a mobile title too. The game – a port of the Dreamcast console version – sees you speeding through San Francisco-esque streets collecting and delivering passengers in the most hair-raising way possible, with two modes and a bunch of mini-games to prolong the action.
Galaxy on Fire 2 HD (Free)
Fishlabs’ Galaxy on Fire space epics have always been reliable sources of mobile entertainment, and the latest installation is no different. It sees you shooting and trading your way across the galaxy, with more than 10 hours in its main campaign mode, and additional quests unlocked through in-app purchases.
The Simpsons: Tapped Out (Free)
This is now one of publisher EA’s most successful game franchises on any device, putting you in charge of rebuilding Springfield after a nuclear meltdown. There are appearances from all the TV show’s main characters, with in-app purchases used for virtual donuts to aid your progress.
Circular puzzle game Hundreds sees you tapping on circles in each level to make them (and the numbers inside them) bigger – adding at least 100 points overall without them touching. Which sounds slightly tortuous written down, but the game’s genius is its stripped-down simplicity, wedded to stylish visuals and fearsome addictiveness-factor.
Where’s My Mickey? (£0.64)
Disney had a big hit with its Where’s My Water? and Where’s My Perry physics-puzzle games, before applying the formula to Mickey Mouse. The game sees Mickey collecting water over more than 100 levels split into five episodes, with more available as in-app purchases.
Word game Spelltower involves swiping tiles of letters to make words as they rise from the bottom of the screen, a bit like Boggle meets reverse-Tetris (I said a bit). Five modes offer depth, and the gameplay is very moreish indeed.
Blip Blup (Free)
Blip Blup is a hypnotically-addictive puzzle game from UK studio ustwo, which gets you tapping to fill a screen-full of tiles with colour. The complication being walls and obstacles that get in the way of your colour-pulse’s path. There are more than 120 levels to work through, with an in-app purchase used to remove the game’s advertisements.
Fieldrunners 2 (£2.01)
The original Fieldrunners remains one of the best tower-defence games for mobile devices, and its sequel adds plenty of new features. If you’re new to the genre, it involves placing towers to fend off increasingly tough hordes of enemies, building mazes to contain and destroy the marching troops before they reach your base.
CSR Racing (Free)
Freemium drag-racing game CSR Racing was one of the biggest iOS hits of 2012, but its Android version has been justifiably popular this year. The game sees you buying, upgrading and racing a range of cars from Audi, BMW and other manufacturers, with an emphasis on customisation – and in-app purchases used to fund the action.
Cut the Rope: Time Travel (£0.62)
Cutesy monster Om Nom appeared in this, his third Cut the Rope game for Android. This time round, there’s a time-travelling theme as he tries to feed sweets to his ancestors. The gameplay remains cutting ropes to solve physics-puzzles across six locations, although this time there are two on-screen monsters to feed, not one.
Sine Mora (£3.99)
This visually-impressive shoot ‘em up won bags of critical acclaim on console before its Android debut. It’s a horizontally-scrolling game whose graphics would blow you away, if there weren’t lots of enemies trying to do exactly that. It also does a good job of catering to more casual shmup players while a well-tuned scoring system gives experts a lasting challenge.
Despicable Me: Minion Rush (Free)
Gameloft’s official endless-runner game for the Despicable Me movies has been (apologies for this) a runaway success. It puts you in the shoes of a scampering minion for this Temple Run-style game, leaping, sliding and dodging obstacles and enemies, while earning (or buying) power-ups and costumes to boost your chances.
Super Hexagon (£1.99)
I remain dreadful at Super Hexagon, spending most of my time with the game fighting the urge to throw my phone through the nearest window in frustration at my ineptitude. This is precisely why a fervent fanbase of hardcore gamers love it: a “minimal action” game that demands fast fingers and razor-sharp thinking.
Ravensword: Shadowlands (£4.63)
Crescent Moon Games has won plenty of fans for its Ravensword RPG games, which are one of the franchises aiming to provide Skyrim-style open-world thrills on mobile devices. The latest sees you exploring a vast fantasy world, fighting and questing as you go.
The heyday of Guitar Hero and Rock Band may have faded on console, but mobile is seeing a resurgence in innovative music games. Dropchord is the work of Double Fine Productions (of Kickstarter fame) that sees you manipulating an on-screen laser beam while dodging scratches and collecting notes. Neon-tastic visuals and a 10-track electronica soundtrack add to the fun.
Tetris Blitz (Free)
The huge popularity of Bejeweled Blitz persuaded EA to try the freemium formula for the most famous puzzle game of all: Tetris. The Blitz element means two-minute sessions to score as many points as possible, boosted by power-ups, while competing against Facebook friends’ performances.
Pixel Defenders Puzzle (£1.39)
As someone with a long-term Triple Town habit who’s also played an RPG or 17, I fell hard for Pixel Defenders Puzzle. It involves matching pixels and characters to make more-powerful characters, who then attack enemies at the top of the screen. Basically it’s Triple Town (also amazing, but released before this year so not in this roundup) with extra fighting, and a fantasy-RPG theme.
Diner Dash (Free)
Billed as “the world’s #1 hit time management game”, Diner Dash took its time to come to Android, but was worth the wait. The game involves seating, serving and saying tara to diners as efficiently as possible to collect tips. It’s a freemium game, so in-app purchases are used for boosts and upgrades.
1941 Frozen Front (Free)
This excellent strategy game from publisher HandyGames is set on the eastern front of the second world war, letting you play as either the German or Russian forces. It’s a turn-based wargame with infantry, tanks and bombers to command, with pass-the-device multiplayer supported as well as a campaign mode.
Ionage is a real-time strategy (RTS) game set in space “where you use giant floating space platforms to do battle in a steampunk themed story of galactic conquest”. It’s also exclusive to Android, and while it plays nicest on tablets, developer Twice Circled claims it’s been “resourcefully optimised” for smartphones too.
Real Boxing (£0.99)
Great boxing games are few and far between on console, let alone mobile. Real Boxing was a palpable hit, though, with its 30-fight career mode, 20 beefy boxers to duff up, and very impressive graphics – particularly if your device is packing a Tegra 3 processor.
Pac-Man +Tournaments (Free)
The freemium bug is infecting the most famous of game characters, as shown by Namco Bandai’s reboot of Pac-Man earlier this year. It mixes the original arcade game with a new Tournament mode with online leaderboards. In-app purchases are used to buy virtual tokens to play the weekly tournaments, but if you’re not fussed about those, you can play for free.
Toy Story: Smash It! (£0.64)
If Angry Birds went 3D, with the birds replaced by Buzz Lightyear and the pigs replaced by aliens, it might look like Toy Story: Smash It. Disney’s game makes for colourful knock’em down fun as you scoot around 60 levels chucking balls at the aliens’ defences. In theory, it’s for children. In reality, parents won’t be able to resist sneaking a go.
Punch Quest (£0.63)
Punch Quest is the first game (to my knowledge) that lists one of its key features as the ability to “punch an egg that turns you into a magical gnome”. It’s a quirky, creative action game with a stripped-down control system that works perfectly on touchscreens.
My Muppets Show (Free)
It’s time to play the music… This game from Disney turns the Muppets into a free-to-play resource management game, with a musical twist. It involves recruiting a house band from more than 20 Muppets, then keeping them happy and levelling up their skills to make beautiful music. Optional in-app purchases of virtual diamonds help to keep things swinging.
Tekken Card Tournament (Free)
And another freemium revamp for a much-loved brand, with beat ‘em up franchise Tekken transforming into a card-battler game. You build a deck of moves, then battle virtual and real opponents – with a range of real-world collectible cards due to join the fun too.
Mushihimesama Bug Panic (£2.99)
This is an old favourite from Japanese developer Cave, with bullets flying all over the shop, a punishing-yet-rewarding difficulty curve, and three control systems to suit your playing style. As shoot ‘em ups go, it’s one of the toughest for casual players, but rewarding nonetheless.
Ninja Village (£2.99)
If you’re looking for time-sucking addictive games on Android, anything by Japanese developer Kairosoft is a good bet. This game sees you building a ninja clan and sending them into battle, while also building their village into a prosperous settlement.
Deep Dungeons of Doom (Free)
This pixelly-retro action game was one of the launch titles on the Android-based Ouya console, and has also been making friends on iOS. The Android version is very fun indeed, getting you to plunge down dungeons fighting and looting in a touchscreen-friendly format.
Sonic The Hedgehog (£2.36)
Sega is certainly cashing in on its fleet-footed blue hedgehog: the original Sonic game follows two episodes of Sonic 4, Sonic CD and Sonic Jump onto Android. The famous Mega Drive game has been accurately ported across, with extra Tails Knuckles, a remastered soundtrack and a new Time Attack mode.
Kingdom Rush (£1.30)
There are lots of tower defence games on Android, but Kingdom Rush more than holds its own in the crowd though. The game has a fantasy setting, all orcs, elves and wizards. You’ll be protecting your kingdom against more than 50 enemies, with all manner of upgrades and abilities to fuel your strategy.
Described as a “Victorian era head-to-head arcade battle for tablets”, this two-player game sees your dapper duellists hurling knives, bombs and even homing pigeons at one another in a fight to the death. One of the best share-the-device multiplayer games on Android.
Pet Rescue Saga (Free)
People are playing Candy Crush Saga (also out before 2013) in their tens of millions, and while this follow-up hasn’t yet reached those heights, it’s well worth a look. Synchronising with the existing Facebook version of the game, this offers 72 levels of block-puzzling action – with cutesy animals and social leaderboards thrown in.
Dungeon Hunter 4 (Free)
Gameloft’s dungeon-crawling adventure is back for its fourth iteration, and like the third instalment, this is freemium. Expect more fantasy-themed hacking and slashing, as you wander through sprawling underground environments laying waste to enemies.
Into the Dead (Free)
Into the Dead is yet another zombie apocalypse game – Android is flush with these – but one with plenty of creativity and originality at work as you fend off the shambling undead. A cross between an endless runner and a first-person shooter, with plenty of charm.
The Sandbox (Free)
The Sandbox is one of a clutch of pixel-art creation-games to have appeared this year, inspired by Minecraft but with an emphasis on 2D worlds rather than 3D. The game offers 71 levels to work through, as you trigger chemical reactions, generate lifeforms and try to build the Pyramids.
Brave Heroes (Free)
This colourful action-RPG sees you putting together a team of heroes, carefully balancing their skills and devising tactics to fend off foes, levelling up as you go. Released by Korean firm Com2uS, it’s got plenty to love for Western gamers as well as players in its home country.
Frozen Synapse (£2.50)
If you like a real challenge with your games, then Frozen Synapse is £2.50 well spent this week. It’s a turn-based strategy game originally released for computers, as you guide your squad through a succession of levels. 55 missions to play by yourself plus five multiplayer modes make this a treat.
Angry Birds Friends (Free)
Angry Birds Friends isn’t a new game, as such: it’s been available to play on Facebook for some time. Both that and the mobile game give Angry Birds a social refit so that you’re competing in weekly tournaments against your Facebook friends. Bragging and gifting is built in, as are in-app purchases.
Might Magic Clash of Heroes (£2.99)
This game may come from a well-established RPG game franchise, but its Clash of Heroes incarnation is a more modern beast: a puzzle-RPG. That means you’ll be battling monsters and looting dungeons, but with the battles built around match-three puzzling. Publisher Ubisoft promises more than 20 hours in its campaign mode, plus multiplayer modes to challenge friends.
Chuck’s Challenge 3D (Free)
Chuck’s Challenge comes from the same brains that invented popular puzzler Chip’s Challenge. That means 125 levels to find your way through, overcoming obstacles and solving puzzles as you go. The game also includes a level creator to make your own and share them with other players – or just browse and play what the community has been creating.
Magic 2014 (Free)
Trading card game Magic: The Gathering continues to have a large and devoted fanbase. They’ll be the people excited about this latest digital version, updated for 2014 with new cards, opponents and campaign levels to test your skills. As a free download, the game comes with three decks with five unlockable cards each, but more decks, cards and content can be bought via in-app purchase.
Plants War (Free)
Finally, another engrossing game from South Korea, this time from publisher Gamevil. It’s a game based around plants defending their forest home from invading beasts. Which might sound a bit like Plants vs Zombies, but instead this is a meaty real-time strategy game with depth in (again, sorry) spades.
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